Late last week, Apple quietly updated the algorithm it uses to rank iOS apps available on the App Store. Apps used to be ranked almost exclusively by number of downloads, but moving forward, Apple is also taking into account actual apps usage, in order to improve the ranking of higher quality apps.
In an effort to weed out junk apps from the top spots of the App Store rankings, Apple just started to ban apps that “manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods.”
These apps often use mechanisms such as pay-per-install to manipulate their ranking: in order to gain access to locked features within an app, users are forced to install other apps on their device, as a way to ‘pay’ for the features, instead of using more conventional methods such as in-app purchases. As a result, some of the downloaded apps rank high on the App Store charts, even though very few users actually care about them. According to freemium experts such as Tapjoy, a slew of iOS developers using the method recently received rejection notices from Apple for their new apps.
Apple is obviously trying to prevent the App Store from being flooded with more junk apps, and pseudo-free apps, a problem that plagues other eco-systems such as the Android market, which embrace the freemium model. Apple is also trying to protect one of its main revenue streams, as allowing pay-per-install methods could eventually kill the in-app purchases model, a way for Apple to keep 30 percent of all transactions within the iOS eco-system.
While Apple’s move will most likely enrage several iOS developers, the new policy should benefit iOS device owners, as the charts published by the App Store will now prioritize the quality of the apps, and not just their popularity.